Red Pine begins his introduction to the Heart Sutra with “The Heart Sutra is Buddhism in a nutshell.” It teaches emptiness. We must understand this emptiness of the skandhas to understand the Diamond Sutra. The Diamond Sutra teaches non-attachment. Red Pine in one paragraph summarizes the Diamond Sutra beautifully:
“THE Diamond Sutra may look like a book, but it’s really the body of the Buddha. It’s also your body, my body, all possible bodies. But it’s a body with nothing inside and nothing outside. It doesn’t exist in space or time. Nor is it a construct of the mind. It’s no mind. And yet because it’s no mind, it has room for compassion. This book is the offering of no mind, born of compassion for all suffering beings. Of all the sutras that teach this teaching, this is the diamond. It cuts through all delusions, illuminates what is real, and cannot be destroyed. It is the path on which all buddhas stand and walk. And to read it is to stand and walk with buddhas.”
Pine, Red (2009-03-01). The Diamond Sutra (p. 29). Counterpoint. Kindle Edition.
I was at a workshop several years ago at the Minneapolis Zen center where Red Pine (Bill Porter) talked about the Diamond Sutra. He said the sub-title should be “Buddha goes to town.” It’s very important to understand that this sutra is about what we do in our ordinary day. The first chapter tells of Buddha doing what he does in an ordinary day: Going to town and doing his alms round and returning and putting away his robe and bowl. We must live our ordinary life without any attachment.
Chapter Three tells us that we must not create the perception of a self, a being, a life or a soul. We must not create the perception. All of our suffering in life is a result of the perceptions that we create. Without the perceptions that we create there is nothing to be attached to and that is the main teaching of the Diamond Sutra.
Chapter Four tells us that when a Bodhisattva gives a gift they should not be attached to anything; not a sight, a sound, a smell, a taste, a touch or a dharma. If you understand the emptiness of things you understand there is nothing to be attached to. And if you understand that the only gift to give is to teach someone the way to liberation you understand that a true gift has none of these attributes.
The sutra goes on to tell us that the Buddha cannot be seen as a physical body. His physical attributes are no attributes. And then it even goes on to teach that the Dharma that he teaches is no Dharma. Master Sheng Yen who founded Dharma Drum teaches two methods of meditation: Huatou and Silent Illumination. The Huatou that he recommends is “what is wu?” Wu is difficult to translate but let’s simplify and just translate it as “nothingness.” This nothingness is what Red Pine is describing in that opening paragraph. It doesn’t exist in space or time and yet it is born of compassion for all beings. It is no mind.
This sutra teaches us prajnaparamita, ultimate wisdom, the wisdom beyond wisdom. This is what it means to go to the other shore.
I hope you will study this sutra for yourself. It is the diamond that cuts through all illusion. It allows us to let go of all of our false perceptions and see what is real.
With Loving Kindness,